One of the big developments in cruising in the past few years is the rapid rise of river cruising, which has a big marketing advantage over ocean cruising among a certain segment of the population: namely, those who don’t like the idea of being out in the ocean on a big ship.
Whether it’s fear of open water, fear of getting seasick, fear of overcrowding, or fear of being on a big ship if a crisis strikes at sea — such as some of the highly publicized events of the past year or two — a number of people just won’t consider taking a traditional ocean cruise. (No matter how much I or many other cruising advocates try to convince them otherwise.)
River cruising, on the other hand, enables you to stay close to land on both sides of the ship; seldom involves rough water, thus negating the motion sickness worries; uses small ships that don’t feel like floating cities or shopping malls; and, in the unlikely event of crisis, promises relatively easy rescue options. You just don’t see many headlines blaring “River cruisers stranded for fourth day in Danube!”
Previously in this blog, I’ve written about Viking River Cruises and Uniworld, two major players in the river cruise industry that both strongly cater to baby boomers. Both Viking and Uniworld cruise rivers in Europe, Russia, Asia and Egypt.
This week a new entrant into the field, Emerald Waterways — the first new European river cruise line in six years — has started taking reservations for its first season starting in April 2014.
As noted, Emerald Waterways will be focusing strictly on European rivers and, according to a press release, is “aimed at both experienced travelers and the younger demographic looking for strong value, great pricing, and a near all-inclusive format.”
The phrase “experienced travelers” can be read to mean baby boomers and seniors, and who of what age doesn’t like “strong value and great pricing?”
Baby boomers certainly do. Baby boomers also seem to like the new trend toward all-inclusive pricing that many luxury lines — and even more mainstream lines like Viking — are now moving to.
Emerald Waterways fares include transfers to and from the ship, all meals onboard and most meals onshore, wine and beer (or soft drinks) with lunch and dinner, onboard Wi-Fi, all tips (a huge perk) and at least one shore excursion on almost every cruise day (including guided visits to many UNESCO World Heritage Sites).
I would add here that many baby boomers love trips focusing on history and culture.
Sailings are eight, 11, 12, or 15 days and operate on the Danube, Rhine, Main and Moselle rivers, connecting cities such as Prague, Budapest, Amsterdam, Nuremburg and Basel, depending on the itinerary.
Two new ships, the Emerald Star and Emerald Sky, carry a maximum of 182 passengers each.
How does Emerald Waterways stand out from the pack? Besides the all-inclusive perks, the company is touting its heated swimming pool with retractable roof, movie theater, two restaurants and its extra spacious cabins (all with river views). It’s also singling out a cabin design innovation they call an “indoor balcony.”
Found in some of its less expensive (though not least expensive) cabins, the “indoor balcony” features a little indoor deck area with chairs and table and a large picture window whose top half opens to let in the breezes and facilitate unobstructed views.
Will the indoor balcony be a satisfying substitute for the traditional outdoor balcony? We’ll have to wait till 2014 to find out, but it’s an intriguing concept.
Emerald Waterways is encouraging early bookings by offering airfare savings of up to $500 per person when trips are booked by October 31 of this year. Eight-day cruises start at $2,225 per person and 15 day cruises start at $3,810 per person; 11 and 12-day cruises start in the low- to-mid $3,000 range.
In the burgeoning European river cruise market, Emerald Waterways seems like a good bet — and I expect we’ll see a good many boomers among those onboard.
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